The Sea Queen & Twelfth Night at the Scoop
London’s City Hall Free Open-Air Theatre season returns at the Scoop for the 16th consecutive year. The project honours a tradition that sees theatre as an open space existing for the benefit of the community. The riverside amphitheatre welcomes audiences free of charge over three weeks in a bid to eliminate the barriers that make theatre inaccessible to many members of society.
The two plays presented this year are loosely linked by a nautical theme. The first is The Sea Queen, a new play by Daniel Winder relating the story of a 16th-century female Irish pirate, and the second is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, tweaked and adapted for the occasion by Rae Mcken. A cast of ten actors brings both stories to life in the relaxed atmosphere of the Scoop, with the help of a simple but effective stage design and some colourful costumes.
The Sea Queen is a family show celebrating Grainne Ni Mhaille, the seafaring Irishwoman who defied conventions by entering a male-dominated world and becoming a leader within it. She commanded a fleet of ships, defeated countless adversaries, and eventually met Queen Elizabeth I. The play lacks verve, but it is a lighthearted, swashbuckling adventure that aims to inspire youngsters to go boldly in the direction of their dreams, regardless of obstacles and naysayers.
The revised version of Twelfth Night becomes more engaging as it progresses. Mcken’s take adds another twist to the gender games and introduces modern elements that bring the text closer to the audience. It may not dazzle, but it makes for a valid introduction to Shakespeare for those unfamiliar with his work. Secondary roles such as Sir Andrew (Feyesa Wakjira), Maria (Veronica Beatrice Lewis) and Malvolio (Ifoya Osagiede) boost up the humour factor thanks to the lively performances of the actors.
The plays could do with more energy, especially as the open air venue is quite dispersive. The project itself is commendable and abides to the true spirit of what theatre should be: a social conversation that can inspire all, and that excludes none.
Photo: Liz Isles
The Sea Queen & Twelfth Night are at the Scoop from 8th August until 1st September 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.